Features

In addition to news and reviews, Theme Park Adventure often takes a closer look at the people and attractions that are shaping the themed entertainment industry. These are our Features…

A Tour of Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Hollywood With Supervising Art Director Alan Gilmore

Wizarding World Hollywood 2016_5589From the door knobs to the aged walls and textured flooring. From original merchandise to table tops in Three Broomsticks. These authentic details are an integral part to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and Supervising Art Director Alan Gilmore has a story to tell behind it all. Gilmore worked on the Harry Potter films as an Art Director, and was brought on to work cohesively with Universal Creative to bring Hogsmeade to life and help translate the film design into a real place.

“I’ve learned so much with them [Universal Creative]. It’s been a really fascinating journey for the last seven years with us working together,” Gilmore explained to a group of us as we walked together into the Wizarding World.

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Wizarding World of Harry Potter Soft Opens at Universal Studios Hollywood

Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hollywood Soft OpenAt about 2:45 PM on February 12, 2016, history was made here in Los Angeles as the Wizarding World of Harry Potter soft-opened for the first time to park guests at Universal Studios Hollywood. The moment marked the end of a long journey that began on December 6, 2011, when Universal made the official announcement that Harry and the gang from Hogwarts would indeed, be coming to Southern California. Since then, Universal Studios Hollywood has embarked on an unprecedented growth spurt – a transformation unlike the property has ever seen.

You may find yourself asking what a “soft open” actually is, and that’s a valid question. The term “soft open” is often used in themed entertainment (and other industries) when it comes to new rides and attractions that are in their preview stage. Once a new attraction is ready for its first guests and a series of technical/dress rehearsals, it will often be put into operation during park operating hours, allowing guests the opportunity to experience it unannounced. Not only is this a thrilling revelation for guests – it’s an important period for the park in question to start understanding guest flow patterns, focus on tweaks and adjustments, and to really polish the show before the grand opening date arrives. Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood is now in its soft open stage. It’s very important to point out however, that a soft open period also comes with risk and uncertainty to guests arriving with the expectation that the attraction in question will actually be operational. In the weeks to come, Universal will be adjusting various aspects of the new land and its attractions. Guests may or may not be allowed into the area, and should understand that if you go to Universal Studios Hollywood prior to April 7, there absolutely is a chance that Potter may not be available, or that one of the land’s two attractions may not be operational. If you happen to own an annual pass, a soft open period can be a “safe bet” because you really have nothing to lose – except a few hours if you choose to wait around for the area to open. However, if you are planning on visiting and buying a ticket to get in to Universal and are expecting to experience the Wizarding World in all of its glory, you really should wait until after April 7, to ensure the land is opening and everything is ready to roll.

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TPA Mixers at Don the Beachcomber off to a Great Start in 2016

Winter Nights at Don's January 2016It’s hard to believe we’re already two month into 2016, but we are! With the temperature a chilly 86 degrees outside, it’s definitely wintertime here in Southern California, as El Nino plows into us with wave after wave of devastating storms. At this rate, we may never see summer. It’s a good thing we have each other to raise our spirits and keep each other warm and safe inside the Hidden Village at Don the Beachcomber as our mixers continue in this new year!

On the evening of Sunday, January 17th, more than 100 theme park fans and haunt enthusiasts gathered at the famous tiki restaurant in Huntington Beach to kick off our Winter Nights at Don’s 2016 gatherings! It was tremendous to see everyone come together after the holidays, and ring in the new year together with potent tropical cocktails and exotic (okay, not so exotic) eats and treats!

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Parturition – a Beautiful and Emotional Experience is Born

ParturitionI walked alone onto Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood feeling rather emotional. It was dark, almost 2:00 AM, and I was still processing the beauty of what I just experienced. I felt confused as to why I felt so emotional about something that was supposed to be scary for most – it was really an odd feeling. What I experienced was Parturition – a “highly individualized 25-30 minute experience through the beginning stages of life.”

With such a vague description, most wouldn’t quite understand what type of attraction this is. I was fortunate enough to experience Screenshot Productions’ first show last October called Fear is What We Learned Here. It was unique, surreal, dream-like and completely mysterious. From what everyone thought would be another 18+, “sign this waiver” and “walk through alone” type of haunt, it wasn’t really that at all. I was really impressed by how professional and different the approach was, and was already immediately looking forward to their next production. It wasn’t a haunt. “Boo” scares didn’t exist there. Fear Is What We Learned Here’s intent was to play with your mind (and scare it) – not just physically. I had a sense of what to expect once I received information on Parturition, but this time it wasn’t about fear… it was about my birth.

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Universal Studios Hollywood at a Glance – Lunar New Year, Harry Potter and More

Universal Studios Hollywood (11)Universal Studios Hollywood is currently undergoing its biggest physical transformation ever, in preparation for the April 7, 2016 opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Everywhere you look, there is major construction underway, from the brand-new E.T. Parking structure, to finishing touches being put on Hogsmeade as we speak. With an April hard open date announced, fans are expecting that we could have soft open (industry term for “preview”) dates as soon as mid-February. In short, it’s about to get real here in Los Angeles, and all eyes are on Universal.

We made our way up the hill to Universal Studios this past weekend and braved the rain and blustery weather conditions to see what we could see and bring TPAers a brief update – quite honestly, possibly the final update regarding Potter before we actually get to experience it, if the soft open rumors are true.

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Knott’s Scary Farm Returning Mazes and Attractions 2015 Review

Knott's Scary Farm 2015 ReviewIn October, we brought you a detailed look and review of everything new at Knott’s Scary Farm, including Paranormal, Inc. and Dead of Winter. This past Halloween season was monstrous in scope for us, to say the least; with 46 stops along the way between mid-September and the beginning of November, the amount of images, video and content in general that we collected is completely nuts! Now that we’ve moved out of the Halloween season, we’ve been sorting everything out and presenting it to you bit by bit here on the site; most folks who have been Theme Park Adventure fans for any duration of time will tell you – around here, Halloween is the gift that keeps on giving! That said, it’s finally time to circle back to the granddaddy of them all, and finish our review of Knott’s Scary Farm 2015 with a look at the mazes and attractions that returned this year to Buena Park.

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Final TPA Mixer of 2015 Our Biggest Ever!

The madness of our biggest TPA mixer ever!As the year comes to a close, we spend a lot of time reflecting on the past 12 months and the journey it’s been through 2015 with our friends and loved ones. During the year, we have hosted quite a few mixers at Don the Beachcomber in Huntington Beach, California. There’s no way we’d let the year end without taking a look back at that wild and crazy night on November 8th when fans and haunters alike came together to share their wild tales of the Halloween season, and to laugh the night away as a community.

Traditionally our largest mixer of the year, this November’s certainly didn’t disappoint. In fact, the group that showed up for our Post-Halloween Bash was the biggest was the biggest we’ve ever hosted, with well over 200 people in attendance. Themed entertainment fans, haunters, and industry professionals – it was a fantastic group that filled the Hidden Village quite nicely at Don’s, mixing and mingling for hours!

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L.A. Zoo Lights 2015 Brings Holiday Cheer to Griffith Park

L.A. Zoo Lights 2015 (9)The brightest spot in Griffith Park this holiday season is most definitely the Los Angeles Zoo, which is now hosting its second L.A. Zoo Lights event through January 3, 2016. The mostly Christmas-themed event is produced in collaboration with theatrical set designer Gregg Lacy, as well as Bionic League, known within the entertainment industry for their work on large-scale events and stage productions for clients such as Daft Punk and Kanye West.

Guests will find a wide array of traditional-type holiday displays set up throughout the Los Angeles Zoo, as well as a fountain show outside of the L.A.I.R. exhibit, state-of-the-art projection mapping, live reindeer, adult and family beverages, arts and crafts, and of course, Santa Claus (on select dates).

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Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor 2015 Review – A Shipload of Terrifying Fun!

Dark Harbor 2015_5262Compared to the other large-scale haunted attraction events in Southern California, Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor is the new kid on the block. While there have been haunts hosted at the Queen Mary for quite some time, Dark Harbor and its very specific theme and character roster has only been there for 6 seasons. Aging like a fine wine, I’d have to say that 2015 was my favorite so far for Dark Harbor; it is maturing and coming into its own so nicely, that many fans are declaring it to be their favorite “theme park haunt” for numerous reasons.

The Queen Mary is, as I have said in the past, arguably the most unique setting for a large-scale haunt event anywhere in the world. With an established history of paranormal activity and ghoulish happenings, having some of Dark Harbor take place on the actual ship itself is worth the price of admission right off the bat. The more recent “dark carnival” element that has been added to the surrounding area – has been embraced and lauded by fans from far and near for the most part. The combination of haunted passenger ship and twisted carnival is so strange that it works – it works beautifully together, and is pulled off by an unparalleled cast of original characters; home-grown intellectual properties (IP) that have amassed huge popularity in just a few years; more so than any other haunt we’re familiar with here in Southern California.

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20th Century Fox World Dubai – In-Depth Look and Speculation

Fox World Concept Art

Recently, the ambitious plans for 20th Century Fox World theme park were announced, setting fan and industry-related sites abuzz with commentary and activity around the world. The new resort, which is set to be built in Dubai, is a much larger project than Fox has ever taken on, and by all accounts, this project certainly has teeth.

Theme Park Adventure has scrutinized the project’s press release, tracked down multiple quotes by employees of Rethink Leisure & Entertainment, and has gone over every inch of the fairly-detailed concept art of Fox World Dubai. We’ve drawn our own conclusions and thought it would be fun to share them with you. Whether or not any of them are correct certainly is anyone’s guess. However, it’s helpful sometimes to come at these things from our professional background, to explain our thoughts and educate fans as to why we see things the way we do from time to time. In the end, we simply want our enthusiastic speculation to come off as interesting and thought-provoking to you. TPA usually doesn’t get into this territory; on occasion, something comes along that is so juicy, we can’t resist rolling up our sleeves and getting into the thick of it just for fun!

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